Written by: Jeremy Barlow
Art by: Tony Parker and Michelle Madsen
Review by: Tim TaylorÂ
Dark Horse has released issue #3 of R.I.P.D.: City of the Damned this week. The 4-issue limited is created by Jeremy Barlow on story, Tony Parker on art, and Michelle Madsen on colors. For those of you (like me) who aren’t really familiar with the title, the Rest In Peace Department is a group of dead law enforcers that sign up in the afterlife to enforce the laws of … I’m not sure, the natural order of how things should go for dead people, I suppose. The City of the Damned limited series is garnering attention, as the movie adaptation of the comic is finishing up and is scheduled for release this summer, so we are being treated to some backstory of one of the main characters. So, prior to reading this series, here is what I knew about R.I.P.D.: it has a stupid name that is fairly annoying to have to type. With that in mind, let’s move on to talking about issue three itself.
The art is… heavy, is likely the best word I can use to describe it. The shadows are commanding, the action is consistent, and there is definitely an aspiration towards using the frame layouts in dynamic ways. That said, I have to admit I’m not a huge fan. It’s very busy, very shadowed, and it uses a huge amount of odd angles. None of those are necessarily bad things, but all together, I found myself really pretty confused as to where exactly my perspective was coming from, why the frame was cut at that strange angle, and what it was that I was looking at. The color palette for most everything but the focus of the scene is pretty limited. For example, a kind of strange, pea green color is used for the sky in a rather awkward set of frames looking upward from the ground. A few pages later, a very similar green is flatly used as… sand, maybe? Or dirt? Either way, it’s the ground, not the sky–I’m pretty sure–maybe 70% sure. I can say this, a lot happens in this issue, although I’m not entirely sure what the majority of it actually is, but I do know there were many chaotic scenes.
In terms of the story, it’s a decent introduction to the series. I’m a bit manic about order and wasn’t able to just jump into issue #3 without reading the other two first, but it does a passable job acclimating unfamiliar readers to the universe the book occurs in. There are definitely things I’m still very fuzzy on, including what the situation or context may be, as well as characters that seem like they will be major roles that are then introduced only briefly for the sake of continuing with the story. I at least feel I have my bearings as a whole, however. On a more micro level, it’s not the easiest read ever as the art rather causes problems understanding what exactly is going on. I think, based on frame location, one section flashes back from one main character to another and something having to do with that other main character involves someone else lighting on fire in some sort of white explosion. That’s the best description I can give you, I really don’t understand what’s happening there. Due to problems like that, I kept getting jolted out of the immersion as I tried to figure out the actual occurrences that were taking place on the page. On a macro level, the story is interesting enough, I’m not particularly opposed to it, though neither am I particularly excited over it. I imagine it makes at least a modicum amount of more sense if you had followed the story previously, but as a new reader, it’s something you can at least roll with.
As a whole, I’m not really giddy about this series, and some of it is a bit cheesy, but it’s not poorly written or conceptualized. I doubt I’d be standing in line at my local comic shop to purchase it the moment they open, but it’s not an awful way to spend a few dollars. If mashing up a bunch of people from different times in the past and have them go out on soul police missions is your thing, this is right up your alley. If that description doesn’t really whip you into a comic-reading frenzy, maybe pass for now and go watch the movie over the summer. If it really grabs you there, then you can go back and check out the roots of the title.
Recommendation:Â Borrow– Not worth the money, but isn’t completely horrible.